WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, have introduced legislation – the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2013, S. 1508 – to help local communities meet the challenges of upgrading aging water infrastructure systems to better handle extreme weather, droughts, and floods.
Our nation’s water and wastewater systems are facing the challenge of adapting their operations to changing hydrological conditions. The impacts of these changing patterns are expected to lead to severe drought in some regions of the country, more intense rainfall and flooding in others, and degraded water quality in many communities. The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act provides funds for communities to equip their water infrastructure to cope with these new conditions. The bill directs the EPA to establish a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability program. Grants will be awarded to eligible water systems to make the necessary upgrades. Communities across the country will be able to compete for federal matching funds, which in turn will help finance projects to help communities overcome these ecological threats.
“Our existing water infrastructure is crumbling due to age and having to cope with more volatile and extreme weather patterns. The truth is that we are in a crisis that can be averted. There is no need to lose revenue from disrupted business and flooded streets. Our water infrastructure may be buried and out of sight and out of mind; but today we must elevate these systems to the priority level they deserve. The longer we put off dealing with this crisis, the more expensive the solution will be,” said Senator Cardin. “Our aging water infrastructure system represents a clear and present danger to public health, as well as our economic security and therefore our national security.”
“Years ago, when I was asked by a reporter what I thought was the biggest challenge facing Nevada, I said water,” said Senator Reid. “Nevada understands and has experienced the challenges that long-term drought brings. In Southern Nevada, Lake Mead is at risk of dropping to a dangerously low elevation. This bill would provide for much needed funding opportunities to help adapt to the impacts that climate change and extreme weather have on our nation’s water infrastructure.”
Senator Boxer said: “The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy last year placed a spotlight on the need to help communities better prepare for and reduce the risks of extreme weather-related disasters. S. 1508 will help strengthen our aging water infrastructure and to protect against severe flooding and prolonged drought.”
A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that by 2020, the forecasted deficit for sustaining water delivery and wastewater treatment infrastructure will trigger a $206 billion increase in costs for businesses. In a worst case scenario, a lack of water infrastructure investment will cause the United States to lose nearly 700,000 jobs by 2020.
“The federal government cannot meet this need alone, but we must take a proactive approach with state and local partners, making strategic investments in innovative projects designed to meet the current and future needs of our water systems. A healthy water infrastructure system is as important to America’s economy as paved roads and sturdy bridges,” Senator Cardin added.
Water and wastewater investment has been shown to spur economic growth. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has found that for every dollar invested in water infrastructure, the Gross Domestic Product is increased to more than $6. The Department of Commerce has found that that same dollar yields close to $3 worth of economic output in other industries. Every job created in local water and sewer industries creates close to four jobs elsewhere in the national economy.
The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act:
Section 1: Short title.
This section provides that the legislation may be cited as the “Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2013.”
Section 2: Definitions.
Inter alia, this section defines community water systems, treatment works, municipal separate storm sewer systems, decentralized wastewater treatment systems, groundwater storage and replenishment systems, irrigation transport systems, and floodwater management systems as entities eligible to compete for program funding.
Section 3: Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability.
This section directs EPA to establish a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability (WIRS) program.
· Paragraph (a): Directs EPA to make grants to help eligible water systems respond to the impacts of changing hydrological conditions on their operations.
· Paragraph (b): Details the types of projects and studies that are eligible for funding through the program, including projects to conserve water; promote water use efficiency; relocate impaired water infrastructure; remediate, recycle, or desalinate water; enhance energy efficiency in water treatment; increase watershed preservation; support the use of advanced water treatment and management processes; and reduce flood damage vulnerability.
· Paragraph (c): Details what information a water system must provide in applying for funding through the WIRS program.
· Paragraph (d): Directs EPA to award WIRS grants each year through a competitive process, prioritize funding projects at water systems that are facing the most significant risks from changing hydrological conditions, and as practicable fund a substantial number of projects that utilize innovative approaches to building resiliency.
· Paragraph (e): Specifies that a WIRS grant shall not exceed 50 percent of the cost of the project undertaken by a water system.
· Paragraph (f): Specifies that projects funded under the program shall adhere to federal prevailing wage standards.
· Paragraph (g): Requires EPA to periodically report to Congress on the implementation of the legislation and projects funded by it.
Section 4: Authorization of Appropriations:
Authorizes funding of $50 million per year for five years, and limits flood control and flood plain restoration projects to no more than 20% of total grant distributions in a given year.